Do we have a culture of rudeness in the Virgin islands? I ask this in the most serious way. Over the past few weeks I’ve been hearing complaints about our customer service – or rather lack-there-of – from all segments of our community. I’ve been fielding so many complaints recently that I’m wondering if somehow I’ve become a defacto complaint box. Perhaps the rudeness has gotten to a point where people are just venting to the closest listening ear.
A friend who lives in the states recently told me that I don’t have a “VI mentality.” A VI mentality? What is that, I asked him. “You are not rude and closed minded,” was his reply. Hold up. Wait a minute. So the definition of a VI mentality is being rude and close minded? As a Virgin Islander I was offended an expressed that to him. His reply that was I should be glad that I don’t have a VI mentality. He had missed my point altogether. If the the label of “VI mentality” means being rude, unreasonable and close minded, all of us in the VI should be concerned. The irony of that particular situation was that this friend is one of the proudest Virgin Islanders I know. He always proclaims to “carry the Virgin Islands on my back.” And although I explained that he was unfair to negatively characterize a “VI mentality,” I couldn’t get him to back down. I pointed to all the wonderful people who exuded good customer service, positivity, etc. He replied that they were all exceptions to the rule. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps I didn’t want to accept what I know is true.
Another friend of mine who relocated from the states to St. Thomas for a position at a private company was so happy when he was able to start a small business on the side. Small business are the backbone of the economy, right? He was even happier when he got a small contract from a local public utility. After completing the work for the utility, he got the run-around regarding his payment. After months of being told that someone was working on processing his payment, he decided to visit the office. What he soon learned was that in fact, no one was “working on it.” But it wasn’t that he had gotten the run-around for months that made him vent to me. It was what the employee said to him the minute he walked into her office: “Meen feeling good today you know. Wha you wan?” He was speechless. He couldn’t believe that a public employee would greet anyone in such a manner. Having lived here for a few years he has learned to turn the other cheek and navigate situations to get what he needs. But he was still in disbelief when he shared the story with me.
His story reminded me of another friend – a Virgin Islander living in the states – who had come home for vacation. Needing to send a money transfer he went to one of our department stores. The lady serving him was so rude that he simply refused to deal with her and asked for a supervisor. What made him vent to me was the attitude of the supervisor. “She was even more rude than her employee,” he exclaimed to me.
I can go on an on with the scenarios. Each of us can probably write a book about the poor customer service in the Virgin Islands. The sad thing is that things seem to be getting worse.
Recently on a flight out of the Virgin Islands I had the pleasure of sitting next to newlyweds from South Dakota who had spent their honeymoon on St. Thomas. When I asked them about their stay they raved about the island’s beauty and all the fun they had. But…they also mentioned the poor customer service and lack of courtesy during their stay, especially by employees at the hotel where they stayed. I apologized. I had to. I assured them that the situation they described was one we were actively working to correct. No guest, honeymooners at that, should leave our territory with negative memories of our people.
Unfortunately many people in the Virgin Island think that because they say “good morning,” “good afternoon,” or “good night,” that they are not rude; that those greetings are a free pass to, well, be rude.
As I type this, I am on a plane back from a business trip where over a few days I had the honor of unofficially being a VI ambassador. Because, the fact is, most people I met wanted to know more about where I’m from. I spent a lot of time inviting people to the territory. And I am concerned. I’m concerned about the name we are making for ourselves by the way we treat our guests. But I’m even more concerned about the way we treat each other. Has rudeness become part of our culture? But more importantly what are we doing about it?
98 thoughts on “Are Virgin Islanders Rude?”
Rudeness is universal; you find rude people all over the world. However, we do have a problem in the Virgin Islands with people who deal with the public. They don’t seem to appreciate the fact that their jobs depend on pleasing their customers. In some cases, there is no fear of losing their jobs. Supervisors can change things overnight if they would do their jobs. If you are rude to your clients, you go home.
I am replying to the first post just to get my comment out. However, my husband and I have traveled to the BVI (Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada) for over 10 years now and we can honestly say that what Todd Garrison says above is absolutely true (from FB). Just because their home is a tourist attraction, does not mean you have the right to treat them like they are all there to serve you . . . to which they are there to “serve you”, but rudeness goes both ways. This is their home and we are the guests. It is a completely different reaction when you take the time to ask their names, where they are from, and remember their names! and show them appreciation by saying thank you, good morning or good evening and being generally friendly to them first. Its really very simple.
Good points. Thanks for sharing.
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Many Virgin Islanders in the service industry have an attitude problem. Many seem to to equate good customer service with servitude. While employees need to be held accountable for their behavior, management bears an equal responsibility to train their employees and make them aware of what they expect of them. It is rare that I walk in to a business or govt. office and can tell which employees have received customer service training. The same people who are rude to others get indignant when they receive poor treatment.
i am glad that you brought this up nanyamka. i have found that i do not ALWAYS encounter rudeness, but when i do i walk past it, as it has nothing to do with me.
just last night i received excellent customer service (a sunday mind you!) from a representative of a public utility. on the other hand i have been yelled at for not filling in a form properly or calling to confirm receipt of correspondence.
i always figure there is a reason for everything and the people to ask about the rudeness are not those who are not perceived that way but those who are.
people act the way that they do for their own reasons. and i’d love to hear them, because i feel that only on hearing why, can we know what to do next.
Just got back from the Virgin Islands tonight I will never return. those people are so rude if it wasn’t for the tourists who visit they would be nothing but peasant.
It was not always this way. Unfortunately, in my lifetime, I have observed our community descend from one characterized by a proud, self-respecting, polite, population, to one with a depressingly large number – a majority? – of rude, ignorant, people for whom English is apparently a second language, but who have no first, and for whom self-respect is an alien concept!
I agree with Mr Anduze, the culture has changed.if you check the background of the ones causing problems, they r no “local virginislanders”. Locals have sadly move to the mainland, and others have moved in, bringing their bad behaviors along. If the supervisor is behaving badly, what example is being set? When i encounter bad behavior, i point it out and use it as a teaching moment to the individual. So far on my return back home, i have not encounter any bad customer service.
I’m glad that you’ve had good experiences. Thanks for sharing.
Yes, rudeness is very rampant, I had the opportunity to go to the a utility company mind you, you are paying a bill (a huge one) and sitting at the desk, someone passed by me and sneezed. They covered their mouth and was very apologetic but the lady at the desk pulled out a spray bottle of lysol and started spraying me, the desk, the chair and the air all around me! yelling, I am not getting sick and all these sick people need to stay home etc… She pulled out a pair of gloves from a box of disposable gloves and handed me my receipt with the gloves on. I was in such shock that I could not respond or move. The lady yelled at me get out my chair! Rudeness is very rampant and allowed. Everyone around was laughing and accepting it as usual behavior and that is what is wrong here. The acceptance. They need to be taught good customer service, respect and at least have a high school diploma. It is an alien concept!
I’m sorry that you had this experience. You’re right, our acceptance of this behavior further perpetuates it. I hope that we can work together to solve the problem. Thanks for sharing.
OMG! When I was there last October I felt this “thing” i’ve come to call the MEENO Phenomenon! Everytime I went into someones business and asked the simplest question “where is the bathroom” ….”meeno” …in KFC…can I replace this for that? “meeno” …I had to fall back a couple of times because I thought it was ME and my NYC attitude mucking up the place….but naaaahh mehson, meeno seems to be a real live issue!
Sadly, you’re right.
Unfortunately this is quite true. It wasn’t like this when I was a child and used to visit STT in the summer to see my grandmother. When my mother comes to visit us in GA, she always remarks on how polite everyone is. Not sure how a long a place that gains revenue from tourist can survive with those nonchalant and rude attitudes that become a common practice. Thank you for being honest in your findings.
Thanks for your comments. Hopefully we can work together to make a change.
I don’t like to issue sweeping generalizations about any group, but yes, you’re right: the VI has a culture of rudeness.
Where you’re wrong is that “we” are working on a solution. Who are “we,” exactly and exactly how are they working to fix it?
The Department of Tourism has been doing PSAs, annual customer service trainings that are free to the public, and educational outreach. Hopeful we can change the culture. Thanks for your comment.
You know, Nanyamka, I can appreciate this question. And, as almost everyone else has, I have had many bad customer service experiences here at home AND in many other countries. Some so mind boggling that I literally walked out of the office or business with my mouth wide open and shaking my head. But, I do believe that things have been getting better in the last couple of years. (Which, if this is not the case based on your most recent examples, makes me kind of sad.) I speak to tourists all of the time as well and inquire about their vacations here and how they find/found the island and in the last several years, there has been a noticeable uptick in the amount of overwhelmingly positive responses and impressions. I credit this to the Dept. of Tourism who has been making a tremendous effort to inculcate not only industry folks but all who live here with a culture of friendly customer service. We can and will do better. We must. It takes time and a lot of effort.
Also, what I have found in dealing with sour-faced customer service employees is that when I’m extra polite and extra friendly, they ALWAYS break. It’s very hard to continue to be nasty and sour when the other person facing you is smiling at you, asking you how you are and tells you to have a great day (even if they’re smiling or laughing AT me because they think I must be a loon for being so damn perky). We are all part of a team here. We all have a part to play.
I couldn’t agree more Joanne. I was in STT in June and I did not meet one rude person. Everyone was helpful and friendly. However, we, having lived on the island, also knew that a “Good morning, afternoon,etc.” was a pre-requisite to starting a conversation. And every single person that I made eye contact with received a smile back from me. So many that claim that someone was rude to them need look in the mirror and see how they approached the situation. If the persons in a hotel see the staff as subordinates who must be at their beck and call, then they shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t receive a warm welcome. Treat people as you want to be treated is my motto and it’s worked well for me.
Thanks for sharing Joanne. I’m so glad that you’ve been noticing an improved experience for our tourists. And yes, the Department of Tourism must be credited for the work they are doing in this area.
Like you, I always try to be friendly when I’m on the receiving end of service. When the service is bad sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. You’re right, all of us must work to improve the situation. Thanks for doing your part!
Does Hawaii have this problem? And if not, what can Virgin Islanders learn from Hawaiians?
Good question. Thanks for sharing.
No Hawaii does not! World class hospitality is what you are going to get in Hawaii. The Virgin Islanders need to stop accepting rudeness as an acceptable behavior amongst themselves, because the younger generations look at it as “acceptable”. Rudeness after all is a learned behavior. You pass it along whether or not you are conscious of it. if you see it as the norm all the time it will be and serving tourists will be hard.
Pulllleez. Hawaiians call us Haoles from the mainland. They can be just as rude or worse than St. Thomas. I had a car rental lady tell me to be quiet because she wanted to hear my wife’s answer on supplemental insurance. I almost took her head off, but I was on vacation. These people have attitude. About a third of them are not friendly at all. Another third are just quiet. There are another third that are wonderful people that love everyone. Smiling is not a thing on St. Thomas. I had a cab driver from Palestine tell me that he has been treated poorly on the island and he considered it a prison. He said St. John is completely the opposite. I agree on St. John which is a special place. St. Thomas is torn about tourism, racism, and other things. It’s a complex place. I love it for the most part. If you are going to have a good time stay close to the perimeter of the island on beaches etc.
You are right. Rudeness is learned and we are working on changing our approach to customer service.
Hawaii absolutely has tensions between the native Hawaiians and us Haoles. The Hawaiians are grossly outnumbered in contrast to our local population. I’m not defending our inhospitable behavior, but to say that Hawaii doesn’t have a problem is absurd. Anonymous needs to step off the resort and his opinion may change.
First you teach the person working in the industry the proper way to handle customers especially rude ones who think they have the right to treat you like lower class, let the manager handle those clients. If the person hiring is family that’s a conflict from the start. Not only with employees but family gets away with more stuff and brings down the morale of the whole team which affects customer service. So for a business to work customer service has to be the best and the people hired have to enjoy and be proud of the job they are doing or it shows and brings down the whole business and nobody wins.
Thanks for sharing!
I lived in St. Thomas for 6 years and recently visited in August. As crazy as it sounds I was ecstatic about the good customer service I received from not only one, but two different employees at Cost-U-Less. I was so impressed that I mentioned it to a few friends knowing that it was an anomaly. It is very unfortunate that rudeness is accepted by businesses. I just wonder what would happen if one business would set the precedence and let go of the employees who don’t uphold those standards. As sad as it is, most locals don’t realize that the islands are dependent on tourism and if the tourists don’t come the island’s economy will suffer. I still love the VI and will always consider it my second home but there is definitely need for improvement.
Glad to know that you had great experiences recently! Yes, there is room for improvement and I hope we can work together to bring about those changes. Thanks for sharing.
Exactly one of the reasons we left St. Thomas for good. Absolutely blown away by the rudeness and attitude on STT. We are so much happier now.
Please don’t give up on us. We’re trying to turn things around.
Wow, well since this post it’s been 2 years later and I’m blown away by the rudeness. As one of my friend has said, no one tells you it’s going to be this way and it is something you have to adjust to because people here won’t change. It’s not normal and having to adjust yourself to accepting rudeness first so that later on you can ignore it is very hard for most people, I would wager to say it’s probably hard for most Americans because it’s not like this in any of the states! I’m glad you are happy, everyone deserves to be happy and free of rudeness!
I’m sorry that you’re having a bad experience. You are right, no one deserves to be treated rudely. Change will come, but it starts first with awareness. It’s our goal to make positive change.
I’m glad you brought up this subject Nanyamka because its a dire situation for the V.I. where the economic structure rests in the hands of hospitality. If customer service employees are not being hospitable, then it can really cause a downfall for the economy and patrons to seek other islands for long-term vacation such as Puerto Rico or even Dominican Republic (which is becoming highly popular among the wealthy).
I have some questions about the state of this issue and solutions being done to solve it:
1. What does the government and/or SBA have in plan to boost better customer service in the territory?
2. And if the government is not doing anything, are there any small businesses/consultants in the territory providing instruction better customer service/business practices?
3. Lastly, if there are no government or business initiatives to aid this dire situation, are there any initiatives to create a program in within the school system to teach workplace/career/entrepreneur psychology (industrial psychology)?
Honestly, I think as Virgin Islanders, we do that to ourselves because we do not hold business or government officials accountable for making changes to better the climate of change. With upcoming elections, if this is a big issue, our people should be making candidates discuss how they will create solutions to this problem.
Thanks for your comments Lauren. The Department of Tourism has had a tremendous customer service push over the past few years. In addition to PSAs, they hold yearly customer service trainings that are free and open to various stakeholders in the community (like taxi drivers, clerks, restaurant employees, etc.) Of course these can’t be mandatory, so I’m guessing that the people who need the training the most aren’t the ones attending.
The big hotels and large tourist spots do their own training too. But it’s the daily customer touch points that need to be improved – from the grocery store to the gas station, etc.
It breaks my heart to hear a tourist bad-talk us. But it hurts even more because I know it’s true. Hopeful dialogue like this can help to bring about change.
This is exactly the reason I left St. Croix back in 1995 and have no plans to ever return. While there may be “rude” people everywhere, it appears that in the VI it is an acceptable way of life towards each other. That’s sad.
I understand your sentiments. It is my hope that we stop accepting it and work together to improve. Thanks for sharing.
DEAR YOU ARE SWEET, BUT I CAN TELL YOU HAVE NOT LIVE OUT SIDE OF THE STATES FOR ANY TIME!!!
People who don’t get Virgin Islander ways of Greeting each other and Carrying on, apparently lived a small secluded towns or subdivsions that had gates and keep the world out and lived like Stepford wives, back home we work hard play hard and live hard too mehson, we yell across the strret to friends and family. Give big kisses and hug ups constantly. We mad one day and calling yo to go shopping the next. BIn the small time we have on this earth we ain’t got time to play high and mighty too long we be who we is. So bye safe trip home
Thanks for sharing.
I have only lived here for 3 years, and have been absolutely blown away by the rudeness and lack of customer service. I ask visitors all the time if they have enjoyed their stay, and for the most part, people that stay in high end resorts that cater to the guests, have good things to say. But the people that are on extended stays, maybe here for a month or so, and go to our grocery stores, and K mart are stunned by the lack of customer service and friendliness. It’s sad. I’m from the south, and when I go home, the first thing I notice is how nice everybody is! However, when we go to St. Martin, “the friendly island” , they live up to their moniker. Grenada, was great too. But here on STT….. horrid! I have noticed that once they warm up to you, they smile a little. But for the most part, we have a long way to go.
Yes, we do have a long way to go. Let’s work together to make things better. Thanks for sharing.
I. Love. The Virgin Islanders
Aside from STT, I have lived in 3 US States (and including NYC, which is famous for their “rudeness”), and three countries outside of the USA. I have NEVER encountered such absolutely horrible customer service or general rudeness from the people as I have in STT.
To the person that said “look at yourself first,” yes, that should generally be true. BUT, I’m sorry… it’s NOT enough to start every conversation with “good morning,” etc. On more occasions than not, even with this greeting, I’m still greeted with attitude, silence, eye avoidance or just plain being ignored. On what planet does the customer need to try to sweeten up the employee just to get acknowledged? I’m not just talking about a polite greeting, I’m talking about having to make a concentrated effort to go above and beyond to show the employee GREAT customer service just to get an ounce of service. Why should I have to? I’m a person too, and should, at the least, be treated like a damn human being. I think that’s the worst part of the rudeness here… many people will not even treat you like you’re a human.
What is even worse is that people seem to get so acclimated to this rudeness and poor treatment, that it takes a trip abroad, or to the US to be reminded of how nice it is to get a genuinely nice greeting from a store clerk, or to be treated with genuine kindness from employees in all sectors.
Because I consider myself well travelled and open-minded, I tried to excuse away the poor behavior of the Virgin Islanders, but after a year of living here, it’s starting to become harder to continue up the charade. I’m here for work, but I’m counting down the days till I can leave.
Beautiful beaches and views are NOT ENOUGH to compensate for being treated worse than a dog. I would never recommend STT to any of my friends to visit or vacation to.
I’m saddened that this is your experience, and unfortunately my sentiments are similar to yours. Thanks for sharing. It is my hope that collectively we can reverse this pattern. Hopefully we can start through these types of open dialogue.
Same here. Recently had a friend ask me for my honest opinion about relocating here for work, her husband has a good opportunity. I try not to talk “outside the family,” but I really want to tell her not to bother.
I’ve had the same dilemma with friends who ask about moving back home. I’ve tried to be as balanced as possible in my response. Thanks for sharing.
Wow.. i am sorry that you were treated that way and that your feelings have evolved negatively. As a Virgin Islander, I must say though that some of the rudeness is not exhibited by solely Virgin Islanders either. The VI is a crucible of cultures and for us to categorize every individual living on the island as a Virgin Islander is not right. Also, VI people have a distinctive tone that mainlanders find offensive. Many of us are very direct in our approach. We are taught to say good morning, good evening and good afternoon. We are taught to speak when spoken too and to speak up so that others can hear you. We are taught to “not beat around the bush”. Can our values and norms be crippling factors? Yes, they can. We must take a look at ourselves and be cognizant of our approach. Not because someone doesn’t greet you in the way that you expect them too means they are rude. Once bitten, twice shy, but each one must teach one…what can we do to bring awareness to the need for change? Instead of becoming angry, we need to become actively engaged. Don’t allow the negativity of others to bring you to an all time low because it makes you a bitter person instead of a better person. Rise above the ignorance.
Letting employees go for rudeness is not really an option. The Virgin Islands Wrongful Discharge Act, whether you support it or not, makes many employers wary to let employees go. The consequences have to be adjusted for that limit; and we have to be more creative in our incentives and motivations. I think someone made a great point that we should figure out just why everyone is so miserable. Much poorer islands are so much more welcoming and friendly.
“We should figure out just why everyone is so miserable.” Excellent point. Thanks for sharing.
Additionally, we get many FIRST TIME visitors. How many repeat visitors do we get? I’d be willing to bet that it’s a pretty low number.
Yes! Lived there in the early 90’s, St. John was lovely back then. St. Thomas was rude. Lived there again for a few years up until 2012 and it was Rude with a capital R and a few of these!!!!
I find Jamaica a much nicer place to live, work and vacation–hands down!
I have been to Jamaica twice and have to agree with you: the people of that island nation get it! They know the importance of making their guest feel welcomed.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing.
After living in the VI for 10 years the only places we receive decent service (not great) are places where we have cultivated it. Years of bringing food, small gifts, noticing new hair styles, being sugar syrup sweet to employees just to be acknowledged and possibly helped at their business. Even at these places we only get the decent service if no locals are there. You can forget getting even a response from a government office let alone what would be considered service. Yes, you will find most of the time that supervisors are worse than the worst employee. And while I appreciate the habit I now have of saying good morning, good day, etc. most islanders don’t return it or direct their greeting to me. Notice I didn’t say Virgin Islander specifically. What I found on St John is that people that are truly from St John are for the most part friendly and/or pleasant. People that are mistaken for Virgin Islanders are usually from another island and moved here the same as I did. Those individuals are who I have experienced to be the most rude and cold to visitors. What is unfortunate is that most young Virgin Islanders I encounter as a parent and in hospitality businesses are the worst example of rudeness. A company I worked for sponsored local students to intern for a day up to a week as a part of a class at school. When they did show up (most were late if they showed up at all) they had absolutely no interest in being there and were so rude to our customers we declined to participate again. I find it to be a sad sign of where our tourism reputation is going. Until we all, young and old, a born Virgin Islander or someone that now makes it their home understand that our livelihoods are based directly or indirectly on tourism and begin to treat visitors (short or long term) better, we will continue to decline.
Thanks for sharing. You noted great points. The two points that stood out for me were 1) some Supervisors are worse than their employees and 2) young people “are the worst example of rudeness.” It says to me that for things to change, both our leaders and the youngest among us must be sensitized in how to treat people. I hope that we can work together to bring about this change.
I must say USVI is a darn lot friendlier when it comes to customer service than the BVI. We have to constantly apologize to charter guests for the bad and most often lack of service.
Do you know if the BVI Tourist Board has any training programs in place like those in the USVI Department of Tourism? Perhaps we can join forces.
I have been traveling between the BVI and St. Thomas for 5 years. The BVI is SO BAD (especially Customs and Immigration). We try to go to Tickles Dockside Pub in Crown Bay Marina as soon as we arrive in St. Thomas because the folks there are Extremely nice! After the foul treatment we get in the BVI, it is so refreshing to have someone be kind to us. Have eaten there MANY times. I believe they must have some sort of training that makes it so pleasant. Someone should contact the manager and ask what they do for training!
Yes, the Virgin Islands has a culture of rudeness. It is taught behavior. I think it comes from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. (google it) I will go a step further to say that growing up in the VI (StX) taught me not to have meaningful relationships with women. Women in the VI tend to never completely trust other women…and Im not saying all. Im saying enough that it left me with an impression. I always felt a bit outcast. I spoke properly (whatever that means…American), I was lightly complected (Clearskin), My mom is a Yankee, I was beautiful…all these things seemed to be used against me. As soon as I went to the states I was embraced in a way by women that I never experienced growing up in the VI. Also, in regards to the customer service industry…the word is called UNPROFESSIONAL. How is the word could you be working in the service industry and have the audacity to suck your teeth to a customer…or if you are a server in a restaurant…why are you dragging your ass? RUN FORREST RUN! Go get my plate of food! Yes, someone mentioned it here…VIslanders feel that good customer service….no I mean, excellent exemplary customer service is a sign of slavery, servitude. Many are too good for it. That is where the VI FAILS big time! That is why many people opt to go to other places instead…its unfortunate…because if the VI could get with the program it could be the top place in the world to visit.
Great points. Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry that you had a bad experience growing up with women on St. Croix. Yes, there is a big difference between service and servitude that many don’t understand. The more I explore the roots of the issue the more complex I realize it is. Hopeful in 2014 we are in a place to solve the issue.
I am learning so much on this forum! Thanks for explaining some of the root causes of the islander’s rude behavior.
Ineffective customer service is universal, but it is obvious more so on our small island because of its size….I recently visited home and also experienced and noted the lack of customer service. I was in Office Max trying to print some flyers and the young lady literally ignored me as I patiently stood at the counter, despite the fact that I continuously made eye contact with her and tried to get her attention. Moreover, her body language made me feel as though I was intruding on her personal time. After about 5 mins, I asked my teenage daughter if something was wrong with the picture, to which she replied, “Yes, dirt poor customer service”. The manager was no better either. Rather, she looked like “Whatever, I’m ready to go, anywhere but in here”. Needless to say, I was astonished. This type of behavior transcended from business to business…private and public. What made it even more ironic is that the very flyers I was printing had to do with my company, STARR Workforce Services Corp, offering customer service, management and soft skills training. It appears that there is not an urgency in the VI, but do we not realize that customer service can make, or break a business? It can set you apart from your competitors in a major way. It can either catapult, or adversely impact our tourism. We have a great deal of issues to deal with in the Territory and customer service should not be at the forefront, but unfortunately, its hoovering in the top five.
I’m sorry you had that experience. The territory is ripe for a business like yours. Hopefully we can all work together to bring about change.
Me and my brother went on vacation to St. John some years back. Our attempts at courtesy were recompensed only by a few of the non-white islanders.
If you are, say, a cab driver or a vendor living in a beautiful subtropical *paradise* — with the sun on your back, crystal clear waters, hermit crabs congregating at your feet and money in your pockets — what reason could you possibly have for being such an ungrateful, dour and confrontational prick? For what reason would your children have to accost grown men in the streets?
We were told by bartenders that the criminal element in St. Thomas could pretty much operate with impunity (as their relatives hold the keys to the jail cells).
We won’t be returning, unfortunately.
Dredged up this post with google after a two week honeymoon trip to the BVI. We have been telling everyone who can listen now that we are home how rude many locals are and what terrible customer service you can expect if you go there. We are a young outgoing couple eager to learn about other cultures and interact in a positive way with all people we meet. We found this to be impossible on our trip. The dour nature of the local population combined with the absurd pricing on eating out and cab fares makes it a no brainer. We will never be back and are telling our friends to avoid as well.
Thanks for your comment. The first step in fixing any problem is first to acknowledge it. We have acknowledged our shortcomings and are working to solve them. Please visit again.
Yes – they are rude. I just returned from a week long stay in St. John and was shocked by how rude the locals there were – everyone from ferry operators to hotel personnel to cabbies. I wrote about the topic on TripAdvisor and was bullied by the various St. John destination experts. I want everyone to know that not only is St. John a poor value for the money – you will be treated rudely there by most everyone you meet, even other tourists. If St. John managed to turn off a tourist like me, who loves to snorkel off shore and has the means to travel and stay on this very expensive island – how will they attract many other tourists? The whole place was shady – now I understand why the Real Housewives called it “Scary Island”. I’m going to keep posting to online forums so everyone knows about this. St. John – clean up your act!
I’m so sorry that you had a bad experience on St. John. There are many reasons why islanders may come across as being rude, but none should be used as excuses. I know many people are working to turn things around.
I have been to St. Thomas and St. John twice and Tortola once on cruises. We love the are so much that I I have booked our airfare already to fly to St. Thomas in June. However, this issue of rudeness and poor customer service is something that on my trips to the Caribbean, I have been shocked by. I cannot believe how many locals in the businesses are not just unfriendly but seem genuinely disgusted by our presence there. While researching this issue due to my concerns, I came across your blog. I appreciate the fact that you recognize this problem and are encouraging others to work to correct it. Our trip to St. Thomas is going to cost quite a lot and I dont want it ruined by an overpriced run down hotel room with terrible unfriendly customer service. Can you recommend a place for us to lodge on St. Thomas or St. John?
Hi Johnathan. Thanks for your post. The good news is that our Tourism Department continues to offer free, ongoing customer service training to everyone in the tourism industry! So I do expect this problem to improve. I can’t recommend a place to stay but you should be able to get sound advice from the Hotel and Tourism Association – a non-profit organization of which most of our hotels are members (http://usvihta.com). Please visit with an open mind and endeavor to have a great time, and I’m sure that you will! Enjoy and come back soon!
Here now. What incredibly rude people we have encountered. I will not spend money here again. I understand cultural differences but this is just plain ridiculous. Sad as I was looking so forward to it and have worked hard to be able to come here. Feeling pretty bummed tonight at the way I was treated by a ferry worker and he was only one of several who’ve been especially mean
I’m so sorry that you’ve had this experience Amie. We are working to solve this issue.
I noticed that this topic was started in 2013 and I’m on St. Thomas right now and have relocated here. I have lived here since the beginning of this year and am a hospitality professional that has worked in many parts of the world for 15 years. I am appalled by the level of rudeness not only delivered to guests traveling to this island but just by the rudeness of locals to locals. Hands down, this is the most difficult place I have worked in for the hospitality industry because customer service is not a part of what people do here. As the author of this topic mentioned, is rudeness a part of the culture here? I have wondered and that is why I started to research online and stumbled upon this site. I am concerned about the tourism industry here, but I am surprised that the local population could care less. At times getting individuals within my industry to do things is like poking a bear. Despite the efforts of the government to instill in the local population that tourism is everyone’s job, I don’t see changes. I have even found the entity within the government here to be disorganized, combative and unhelpful. Unfortunately, I can see the effects of travelers and groups choosing other destinations over USVI due to negative word of mouth or prior bad experiences. This place is becoming a hard sell, and if people don’t wake up here, the industry will collapse, and it will probably happen in the next few years.
I’m so sorry that you are having this experience on our beautiful island. There are so many undeniable truths to what you described here. It is my hope that with professionals like you, the VI government and essentially all of us working together – we can tackle this issue. It will not happen overnight. As you noted, this article was posted a few years ago. We must be committed and strategic in making customer service a priority. And it begins first with awareness. Let’s do what we can to make a positive difference.
Thank you for your insightful as well as respectful response. This topic is one that comes to the forefront of conversations I have with many leaders in my industry of travel and tourism. Some of these leaders have returned to USVI for multiple tours of duty here over the span of decades and have commented that in their various times of service to this island that nothing seems to change despite their efforts. Yet the locals despair at the fact that these leaders leave. I wonder, is there a barometer that the territory is utilizing to bench mark these strategic initiatives to measure customer service improvements? Additionally, as this beautiful island is a part of the Caribbean tourism pie with the rise in demand for Cuba, my peers here fear we are losing our piece more rapidly than anticipated. When I bring this topic up to people I work with, there is an overwhelming response of apathy. Thus far, mentioning this has not been a motivator to improve customer service levels. I believe you are right, that it starts with self awareness of how we act, however how do you address the hard truth of the self centric nature of the “VI mentality” ? I would think that a mirror to be placed in front of it to reflect the consequences on the economy and damage to their wallets would work but it doesn’t as I mentioned before the results of my Cuba conversations. Those consequences in the decline are there now for all to see. This islands beauty is no different than that of Aruba, Jamaica, the Bahamas etc. yet these other islands continue to chip away at our piece of the pie.
You’ve given a thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis. Your fears are mine – loss of reputation, loss of tourists and the loss/decline of an industry. That’s a great question about how we measure the success of our customer service efforts that I will broach with some of our leaders.
As a professional coach I’ve learned that the way to changed behavior starts with awareness, then changed thoughts and beliefs, and finally changed behavior. Part of changing this “VI mentality” is to make customer service systematic and institutionalized – it must be required for all service industry professionals (ex. all tour guides in Greece must be licensed and maintain their license in order to work) and it must be part of the educational curriculum (an easy fix while we work things out would be to have tourism and customer service embedded in VI History classes which are mandatory).
(Just to put this all in context, if you search the term “rude” plus just about any Caribbean island you will get tons of results. So the issue is not isolated.)
Only one thing that I disagree you about. The beauty of our islands tops every destination you have mentioned. The Virgin Islands is the most beautiful place in the world!
Thanks for this discussion. We have work to do, but it can be done. Blessings!
Islanders were very rude to my wife and I through BVI and USVI.
Doesn’t make much sense. We spent a lot of money while we were down there and also say please and thank you (to a fault considering how we were treated).
Only place where the culture is do onto others as you would have them do unto you is at the resorts, where they are paid to be nice to you. Sad.
Too late for us though. Hawaiians are way nicer and have a true island culture. Plenty of places just as pretty with a better culture. Don’t think we will be returning anytime soon.
I couldn’t disagree more about Hawaiians. Spent two weeks there and was called a Haole several times on Kauai. In Maui someone yelled “Go Home Tourist!!!” To which another local confronted them physically on a beach state park. Our car was robbed in a different state park. A significant percentage of locals are openly disagreeable to tourists.
St Thomas is different. Hawaiians are only rude because they want independence. St Thomas has a darker more racial component against whites in a small but significant minority.
If you are an extrovert personality expect a chilly reception at first. Ask opinions and their preferences.
The problem of poor customer service runs deep in many places. My goal is to work on solving it, especially in the Virgin Islands.
I’m staying in St Thomas at this very moment at the Flamboyan at Magens Point. This is a small “family resort” with an experienced and loved staff. The ones that deal with visitors are very friendly and the others are quiet and unsmiling.
I agree with the 60% are solid gold and 40% range from ice cold to first class a$$holes. This evening we got into a shouting match on the road with a woman that ran the stop sign as we turned right. I’m a tough guy so she backed down quickly.
That said, many of the nice people who work here seem to be from Jamaica or other “happy” places. I usually ask where people are from.
I have found some of the most wonderful and helpful people here than almost any vacation spot anywhere.
That says said, do not rent a car from Thrifty/Dollar. The desk lady is a bitter mean shrew who told me to shut up as my wife and I debated whether to take optional insurance. My wife is an “easy mark” for predatory sales people sometimes. Instead of turning my dark side to this woman I told my wife we can just go to another rental place that wants our business and left it in her hands. This woman needs to be fired immediately.
I can count a five to one ratio of wonderful encounters here. I’ve learned to ask for opinions first and not friendly greet which makes them suspicious.
This is a tough rock to make a living.
The last anecdote I have is from Nasim a cab driver we met in front of the Greenleaf restaurant last night. He has been here for 18 months from Palestine. He said that the locals here are mean people. He said that St John people are completely different and much nicer.
I’m nice to everyone though. I pray for the people that are miserable and dead inside. The tough life here has made them bitter and cynical. Visitors here are seen by everyone as cash. These are shrewd operators. Watch your wallet literally and figuratively. Ignore the desperate attitude and make your own fun.
I’m sorry that you’ve had a bad expereince. However I’m happy that you’ve also had some wonderful experiences.
After having lived and worked in Hawaii and USVI for years I have to agree with richardt that Hawaii is a better place for a quality vacation that you won’t regret spending your money on. USVI comes with a “buyer beware” label, and after living in both locations and talking to tourists in USVI, there is a misconception that USVI is like Hawaii. If you’ve been to Hawaii first then go to USVI you’ll be disappointed. If you visited USVI first then go to Hawaii, you’ll be blown away by your Hawaii vacation. It all comes down to one thing….the people. Yup USVI is beautiful in terms of beaches etc. but the locals ruin it for tourism. Locals in USVI are rude, unhelpful and yes I agree with dcterrain down right racist, especially against white ppl.
The people of Hawaii yes, they do call white people “haole” but it’s not a racist thing. I have many local white friends born in Hawaii that call themselves “Haole”. It’s not a bad word. The Hawaiian locals use a slang called “pidgin” which is a combination of English and Hawaiian words. For example instead of saying “im done” they say “I’m Pau” instead of saying “hole” they say “puka”.
I have to disagree with dcterrain that Hawaiians are rude. They are actually the most warm and generously giving people I’ve ever lived with. Additionally I’ve had employees that have been assholes to Management in Hawaii but they are sweet as pie to tourists because they know there is money to be had. In comparison the locals of USVI take it a little too far. Here are some examples: Just the other day at a restaurant in USVI I asked to order something and the local server smacked her teeth at me and just stared so I had to repeat myself . A few weeks ago after landing at the airport my spouse was yelled repeatedly by a taxi driver to move out of his way when we were walking on the sidewal with our luggage. At another restaurant we frequent we were deliberately not served our food in the order people came in but those that were local that came in afterwards were served first. Last month I called into the customer service line of our cable company and I was yelled at literally for complaining about service not working. Two months ago I called taxi dispatch for a cab and was told rudely no cabs can come and was hung up on. Two weeks ago a contractor working on our neighbors house rudely demanded ( not asked) from my spouse that he get him cold water. Just yesterday a taxi parked illegally in front of my spouses company and my spouse asked him to move he yelled at my spouse and told him no.
The culture of rudeness in USVI is alive and well with no signs of dying down. My advice skip USVI or visit via a cruise an 8 hour period on shore lessens the risk of being exposed to the rudeness.
Good points. We are working on improving customer service.
Do not come here to visit !!!!! These are the worst people I have ever interacted with. I just had a taxi driver flake on picking up my group after he was contracted to do a very specific run then another one overcharge shamelessly for a run to the airport, then give me a lot of attitude when questioning rates. we have a right to know the rates, you can’t sneak in added costs, unethical! Everyone just wants to rip you off for a quick buck!
Can’t even get service at resorts your looked at like you have 2 heads when asking for normal things like your bill printed or towels.
Can’t wait for my flight to take me off of this island!
I’m sorry that you are having a bad experience.
I think that people are piling on here. The experience here is no worse than many different islands. In Barbados, they won’t tell you that the “dollar” is worth two US dollars. They let you pay twice as much because you are unaware. On Barbados beaches you are HOUNDED by trinket sellers who will curse you if you don’t buy.
I met a guy selling water on the top of the island at a scenic overview. I told him “you have a beautiful island.” He said reflexively “it’s your island too as an American.”
Most of the people on St. Thomas are fine people. There are some serious A-Holes though. They ruin things for the others that are wonderful human beings. Resorts are better. Beaches are better. Anywhere there are service people. Interior island is not as great, but no worse than New York City.
For all the Hawaii fans, try going to a different time zone, listening to horrible karaoke with “somewhere over the rainbow” playing from every street corner, and people that are genuine a-holes towards continental Americans (Like Barack Obama.)
Go to St. Thomas with confidence. Ride out the speed bump jerkweeds you will find everywhere, but ignore them.
On the rip off front that is true. Everyone is HUNGRY for money. Most are legit, but many are not. If you can’t deal with this stay in the states. Smart consumers will LOVE St. Thomas and St. John even more.
Very sorry to say but at this point in time Hawaiis worst customer service is your best. The island has an issue with helping people or they just don’t know how. The other day I was in a cab and heard over the PA system a request from a guest to be picked up from Marriott to go to the zip line. She said she was at Morning star and asked of what lobby to go to and the operators rudely kept on telling her the “lobby”. Well there are two lobby areas, one at Morning star the other in the main frenchmans reef area. The poor lady tried to clarify and the taxi driver hung up on her. The taxi driver that I was with said to me “why doesn’t that lady listen, doesn’t she understand?” To which I did not respond but was baffled. You treat tourists like this with this kind of mentality of course they ain’t coming back!
Just got back from our Honeymoon in Virgin Islands. The second half of our stay was at Cane Garden Bay in Tortola. The beach was beautiful but the people were so unfriendly it was depressing so we shortened our stay and left a day early to go back to St. Thomas. I don’t recommend staying in Tortola the locals aren’t nice!
MAKE SURE if you are going to VI on a trip that you always offer a friendly Good Morning! , Good Afternoon!, Good Evening! and that will send a friendly “signal” to locals. They are being fed a constant diet of victimization rhetoric and are ambivalent about tourism. It’s not easy making a living on an island even in the state of Hawaii. Just a thought.
Just came back from VI, that doesn’t work. Still super rude and unbothered!
I have traveled the world and by far the cruizian experience was the worst i have ever had. I willnot ever go back.
Just came back from an 8 day vacation on St Thomas. Unfortunately I will not be going back or recommend anyone to go. Locals are plain rude, unbothered and lack any sort of customer service or hospitality. Sad, such a beautiful island!